Getting the highest video quality on YouTube

March 26, 2021

Do you export and upload your YouTube videos in 1080p? Do you find that your videos looks overly compressed on YouTube even in 1080p even though they’re super crisp on your computer?

If so, you’re in luck, as I’ve had the same problem, and I found a fix!

TLDR

Upload your videos in 1440p or more and they will look great even when watching in 1080p on YouTube.

Even if you only have 1080p footage, export it in 1440p before uploading it to YouTube, the result will still be much better than if you uploaded the original 1080p footage.

If your channel is popular, ignore that, all your videos should look as good as they technically can by default.

If you want to know why, read on.

Why does your video look like shit

Unless you have a relatively poplar channel, YouTube will use the AVC codec for videos that you upload in 1080p or lower, which tends to look overly compressed and degrades the quality of your video.

If you upload in 1440p or more, it will systematically use VP9 which looks much nicer for the same file size as AVC would (but is more resource consuming to encode which is likely why it’s not the default).

If your video is initially encoded in AVC, but it becomes really popular, it’s likely that YouTube will re-encode it in VP9 (they can do that as they always keep the RAW video file) and it will get an “upgrade” in quality at equivalent playback resolution.

Solution

Upload at least in 1440p and you will always have the VP9 encoding on your videos!